I've been planning this piece for a while, but really don't know where to start. I guess I'll just wing it. LOL
Super sensitive hearing has been something I've been afflicted with, all my life. Because I am legally blind, my hearing compensates for the vision I don't have. On top of that, I have an incredible ear for music, and perfect pitch. When I am in a comfortable place this is a blessing, but most of the time it's absolute torture.
I've been told to be more tolerent, more patient, more understanding, and to ignore the noise. Ignore it? Yeah friggen right! The best way to describe over-sensitive hearing to one who is not afflicted with it is to put that person into a dark room, then shine a 100 wat bulb into their eyes for about a minute, forcing their eyes open with tooth picks so they don't blink, then flashing the light like a strobe light for another minute, turning off all light for about 10 seconds, and then flashing super bright lights in their eyes at strobe-light speed for two minutes straight. After that put the subject into normal light, hand them a newspaper, and ask them to READ IT! Now tell me, after that kind of visual torture, would you want to READ? Would you be able to READ? Would you not have a blinding headache?
Unfortunately that is exactly how the world outside of my comfort level feels to me. For this reason when I ride busses, walk around downtown, or go anywhere where there is a crowd, I wear my headphones, and listen to certain music that is loud enough tu dull the backgorund, but not so loud as to irrigate my sensitive hearing. This is the equivilent of wearing sunglasses on a super-bright day, or after having your eyes dialated. This accounts for my eccentric taste in music. Certain voice tones, instruments, and even the tones of certain langauges, are easier on my sensitive hearing, than others.
Give me an electric guitar played by Les Paul, but keep your distorted guitar played by Jimmy Hendrix. The distortion is as bad as a bright light.
Give me a song crooned by Vic Damone, but the same song by Rod Stewart will make my teeth bleed.
I don't care how softly Rod Stewart, or Jimmy Hendrix are playing in the background, the very frequency will drive me insane to the point of violence (picking up the stereo and THROWING IT) if that's what it takes to make the noise stop. I've never actually picked up and thrown a stereo before, because I've been lucky enough to have been with people who understood, to have had a room to escape to, or to have had my own headphones and soft music to cram into my ear to block the sound. My distaste for certain types of music is personal (I like Vic Damone, I do not like Rod Stewart) but my REASONS for this taste go far beyond personal. Rod Stewart hurts my ears, the way a strobe light would hurt the eyes.
And perfect pitch? Don't get me started on that! This accounts for my absolute musical snobbery, in many areas. Go ahead, like what you like, hate what you hate, like what I hate, and hate what I like, just don't torture me, world.
When my father would yell at us as children, as parents commonly do, this would scare the crap out of me. It went far beyond a parent correcting a child, to me it was the verbal equivilent of being slapped!! He wasn't using abusive words, but a man who's very volume could be heard by a normal person down the street, standing next to a small child with my heading? You figure it out! I love my Dad. He taught me many wonderful things (I owe my chutzpah, steel nerves, and financial sense to my father), and instilled many wonderful values in me, but through no ill intentions of his, when he was any less than 100% relaxed, I was scared stiff! Thankfully he's learned to speak a bit more softly over the years.
Walker and I used to get into it about noise. He complained that if the TV was turned down too low, he coudln't hear it, and I was just being selfish. Excuse me? His could be amplifed, I coudln't turn mine down. And WHY, when a person knows that someone else's hearing is so sensitive, would one try to make their point by YELLING? I never yell. I know the majority of people don't have MY hearing, but I treat them as if they do, because one never knows when they are going to be in the presence of someone like me.
A few weeks ago, my wonderful husband agreed to a little expariment. You've all seen those sound amplifiers on TV, I'm sure. You know, the ones you put in your ear, with the little microphones, that bring sounds RIGHT into your ears? He decided to order a pair of them. I checked one out, putting it into my ear in a silent room, and sure enough the sound of the fridge in the kitchen was "right next to me."
It was 3 PM, and that meant that Walker would want to watch his favourite show, The A Team. The noisy freaking A Team where people are always yelling, someone's always shooting, hellicopters are going overhead, there's music in the baground for effect... and Walker yelling at me for turning it down so he couldn't hear it. Grrrr....
He put The A Team on "normal volume" (for him) and put an ear piece in ONE ear. (I could have requested both, but I decided to have A LITTLE mercy LOL). It took him about 30 seconds to realize WHAT it was I'd been talking about, all alone. We turned it down to an acceptable level (for me) and he left the device in his ear, hearing the show clearly, but jumping when the loud noises sounded, and griping about the sound of the coffee pot in the kitchen, along with the motor on the fridge, and the sound of the slow-cooker. You don't want to know the language he used when the oven timer went off.
I ADMIRE THE HECK OUT OF MY WONDERFUL HUSBAND, because even after he completely got the point, he was determined to leave that thing in his ear, for the entire episode. He ended up falling asleep (believe it or not, this was something I'd do in class during "debates" when people thought it was leave for them to YELL as loud as they wanted and the teacher never stopped them). I woke him up when the show was over, kissed him, and congratulated him for surviving a whole hour.
"But I fell asleep," he whined. "I'm sorry..."
I kissed him again and told him not to be sorry for that, since this was completely new to him, and the point was that he didn't rip the device out of his ear, and throw it across the room, as I would like to be able to do, had I the ability. I told him about the history class debates, and falling asleep sitting up during a loud family afternoon when I was totally surrounded with no headphones, no room to escape to, and no one understanging that I couldn't take the noise. It's a form of disassociation. When one can't escape, their brain does it anyway.
My wonderful husband not only does not raise his voice anymore, he doesn't even throw a firm tone in there. I explained to him that Dad's "firm tones" were a prelude to a tantrum, just as a pin being pulled on a hand grenade should warn anyone in the area that an explosion was imminent. My husband is a very articulate man, and knows the language well enough not to need to use intimidation tactics such as raising his voice, or using intimidating tones. So too is my father, and so are a lot of other people. Sadly, the world still yells.
When Walker was still driving, he complained of idiots with their high beams on behind him. Bright lights at night never blinded me, but they would blind him. I thought about that, and imagined that he felt in his eyes, how I felt in my ears. After our little expariment with the ear piece and the A-Team, he confirmed that I was 100% right on with that comparrison.
I've been blessed with a wonderful defense mechanism, that has served me very well, over the years. I'm able to listen to a person's voice for about 5 seconds, and tell right away if there will be something about that person that will irritate my hearing later on. Some people are loud when they're upset, others are chronically irritating to my hearing. I had a teacher once who was like that, and an understanding principle who had the same problem, allowed me to transfer into another class. I know what my "sound limit" is, and I know where the "steps" are, before I get there. In other words, my brain WARNS ME against potential "meltdown situations" long before the danger will occur, much in the same way your mind will warn you when something gets too close to the edge of the table, allowing you to catch it before it falls, or warns you just that little bit of time before your child is about to do something dangerous, so that you may be able to stop them in time. When I say "I need to get out of here NOW" I'm not just being pananoire. I'm not overreacting. Believe me, you don't want to be around me when I've been pushed. Walker can tell anyone what would happen when he'd yell, not BELIEVING that my hearing was as sensitive as it was. In the beginning he used to yell LOUDER stating that my reaction was nothing but a bunch of emotional blackmail, and that he had ex-wives who would do the same thing (cry when they wanted something). Oh really! That kind of logic suggests that if a car backfires, and Walker dives for cover, he's nothing but a chicken. HA! No, not at all. When a car backfires, he ducks for cover, because it sounds like a WAR SOUND, and war sounds are usually dangerous, so anyone who does NOT duck and cover is a nut who might lose his life. This was a holdover form his days in combat, and something I can totally understand (and could even before he explained it to me) because a car backfiring will startle the crap out of me too, because of the sudden change in sound, and the shake to my hearing. I won't dive for cover, but I might drop my coffee cup, or something. Once he fully realized the extent of my hearing, it occured to him why he had to explain so little of his PTSD, why I understood his reactions right away, and that my reactions were NOT emotional blackmail. Those little hearing devices may have saved our sanity, and our marriage....not that there's anything wrong with our marriage now, but years of unnecessary assaults on my sensitive hearing and a lack of understanding would probably cause me to eventually lash out, jjust as living next to a firing range, would probably wreak havoc on Walker's triggers. He developed triggers as a result of environment, I was born with mine, but the result is EXACTLY THE SAME.
Because I have had these triggers for my entire life, I have had to learn to cop with them. A lot of my coping mechanisms have crossed over to help Walker handle his PTSD. I've taught him how to defend himself without hurting someone else (use your words, not intimidating tones, defend as opposed to counter-attacking, argue your point calmly, so the person who has offended you will have nothing to come back with, don't take your problems out on others...)
People with certain sensitivities will often treat those around them as if they had those same sensitiviities, because they will know how uncomfortable they feel, when their bruises are poked, so to speak.
One of the first male voices I remember, as little girl, probably the softest and most gentle male voices I've ever heard, was that of my Morfar (Danish for Mom's Dad). His voice was very deep (he sang bass in the church choir at home in Denmark) and he had a very thick Danish accent. Before I grew up, and was able to vocalize to my father that hearing someone yell was a scary thing, thus being able to make him understand that yelling to me might not necessarily sound like yelling to someone else and that I needed those around me to be gentle on my sensitive ears, there was Morfar. When the world hurt my head, I could just go to my Morfar, and he could make everything all better with that nice deep voice, and a DANISH ACCENT. To this day I have a particular affinity for deep voices, and/or thick accents. Walker has a very deep bass voice, as you've all heard from my videos. I've also noticed that certain accents can really take the harshness out of the English language. Some American and Canadian voices have a way of grating on me. When I go to sleep at night, I like to listen to the BBC World Service. The broadcasters on the BBC have a really gentle way of speaking, whereas a lot of the Americans I heard on news stations such as MSNBC and CNN, always sounded like they were pissed off with someone (especially the men). When I was in AZ, and we'd go to bed with the TV on (usually CNN because all the other stations aired infomercials) I had ONE HECK OF A TIME falling asleep. I missed the crap out of my BBC World Service. Here in Guelph they broadcast it locally on the university station, elsewhere, I'd steam it on line. Sadly in AZ, we didn't have a computer in the bedroom. I also notice that when two people on the BBC get into a debate they don't raise their voices, whereas Americans do. I think it was this fact that made Walker unaware of the fact that raising his voice during a conflict did not get his point across, it only made things worse. How would he know any differently, since this came second nature in the way he was taught as an American? And let's not forget that military training. We're talking about a man who was trained to KILL PEOPLE!!! He's doing damn well as a civillian, and has overcome a lot of the crap that was pounded into him in the Military, but to this Canadian's sensitivities, he still has away to go, and is going that way a little bit more every single day. Canada has been really REALLY good for him. I wish he'd come up here in 1968, instead of going off to Viet Nam. Stupid friggen DRAFT!!!!
When the world would get too noisy for me, as a child, and I'd hide out at Mormor and Morfar's house, Morfar, knowing I loved music, played all kinds of wonderful music for me. My Uncle Jorn and Aunt Elsie also made me tapes and CDs of music from all over the world. Certain languages and certain voices seemed to have a calming effect on me, no matter what the situation was. You've all read about my recent (January) discovery of Croatian music by Vice Vukov. He has the most gentle voice I have ever heard, and Croatian is a very smooth language to begin with. An amazing tenor voice that he could project in volume, without projecting in force.
My friend Vladimir, who drive the bus here in Guelph has a very similar voice, with a Serbian accent (Serbian and Croatian are pretty much the same language). He's also a very calm man, being able to handle any strange thing that may happen on the road. I was once on a bus he was driving when it was full of screaming students, and a bicycle darted out infront of us, causing him to have to act quickly. I was standing up on the bus, something I should not do because of my poor balance. Would you believe that Vladimir was able to swerve a full buss, avoid the bike and any other on-coming traffic, and I didn't even flinch? Under normal circumstances a lot less action than that would have had me on the floor, with my poor balance.
It seems that a gentle voice is the cornerstone of a gentle personality. As well as a talented singer, Vice Vukov was an amazing politician. As well as a gentle person to talk to, Vladimir is a calm man who can drive under pressure. I've been on busses and in cars with drivers whos voices were as rough as their driving!!
Am I alone in these experiences, or have others out there had similar experiences in life? How do you cope with your sensitive hearing, and not having that filter? How is it to have everything coming at you, coming into your ear at once, instead of in layers?
I'm just now reminded of a wonderful service Walker and I attended at the LDS chaper in Sedona. Unfortunately there was a child behind me who could screech, and pound the pew, and his mother did nothing. At the end of the service I just wanted to get out of there. I mean I was FREAKED!!! Two friends wanted to stop and talk to us, but I risked rudeness to get out of there, because I was already emotionally reacting to the fact that I'd sat through the bloody noise for that long. I knew that anything I said would have been worse than any hurt feelings our hasty departure would have caused. Thankfully my wonderful husband understood this, and did what he needed to do to get us the heck out of there.
What's more, this was an absolutely exhausting article to write, ebecause every negative memory I recalled was as vivid as a virtual reality simulator. To write it down is to relive it. Fortunately I had my BBC World Service in the background, and that grounded me, when I'd take my hands off the keyboard to take a five minute breather. I've been composing this aritcle for the last hour. That's how long it's taken to "turn the pages in my head," so that I may portray these memories, and my sensitivies accurately.